Selected poems by Pablo Neruda***

Reading dates: 14 January – 29 April 2014

We read a poem a night, both in the original Spanish and the English translation. Returning to my mother tongue, to moving specific muscles in the mouth to make familiar noises was comforting; hearing Neil try those same positions was rewarding, beautiful, memorable. I am not sure about the poems themselves. It might have been the selection but they seemed pretty limiting in terms of themes. Yet, there were some gems, of course, in particular those works referring to the sea. These are the poems of another time and another history and some times they felt very distant. A continent away, a lifetime away. Perhaps the language helped that remote quality. When did my mother tongue stop being my mother tongue; when did I become independent from my first language? It was beautiful to read, but with the qualities of returning home for Christmas, finding the quirks of the place you grew up in amusing only because you know you will leave it after boxing day. It is a necessary place, one that allows you to be who you are but is behind you. That’s what I felt with Neruda’s work. He was a favourite of mine during my teenage years and he continues to be there then, but not now. I wonder if the same would happen with Pedro Salinas, Miguel Hernández, Mario Benedetti and Gloria Fuertes if I shared them with Neil.